Song Shot: Albert Ayler “Spirits” with Bell’s Brewing’s HopSlam

This is a guest post by Justin Spicer. If you would like to contribute to Volume by Alcohol please click here

Spirits cover art

The smooth but sour notes that begin Ayler’s “Spirits” not only speak to his signature sound, but to an idea of jazz not as common but contemptuous. “Spirits” is indeed a haunting; spectral beings hovering above you at every turn as floorboards creek and old furnaces rattle with the dust and soot of a century’s worth of wear and tear. It’s soul—and there’s plenty of it to be found in Ayler’s wailing tenor sax.

Bell’s Brewing HopSlam. Image via Bell’s Brewing.

Beer: HopSlam

Brewery: Bell’s Brewing

Style: Double IPA

ABV: 10.0%

Bell’s Hopslam Ale, a double IPA that wears its heart on its sleeve–bangs and boils like an Ayler solo. It lives by its own beat, dependent on no structured melody in a continuous search for the right tone. Its hoppy, almost sour, taste is its calling card but like Ayler, a signature is but a skeleton. Despite being heavy on the hops as it first hits the palette, Hopslam mellows out with each hearty swallow. Unlike its name may imply, gulping it down will prove your downfall. This is a beer to ease into, not only due to an ABV of 10%, but because it will turn you into a sleepwalker for much of the following day no matter your tolerance or how well you nurse your booze.

This is why “Spirits” is a natural match for Hopslam, each beginning with a fury but settling into a sober groove that will railroad long after the last note/node. Music and beer are meant to linger, meant to stew in your system before ultimately rewarding your patience. You may feel like a ghost when both are through but once your spirit has the time to recharge, you’ll find yourself recharging with another round of both.


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